I've discovered a new author to add to my "Favorite Authors" list--Jodi Picoult. A friend at Ole Miss recommended her books to me a while ago, but I've only lately had time to start reading her. So far, I've read My Sister's Keeper, Plain Truth, Change of Heart, Vanishing Act, and I just finished The Pact. I'm addicted.
What's so wonderful about Picoult is that her books are great reads, yet at the same time they are well-written and thought-provoking. You get all the fun of recreational reading without the guilty feeling that you're wasting time reading junk.
Her novels that I've read so far have dealt with the medical ethics of bioengineering, teenage pregnancy, religious fundamentalism, family relationships, faith and doubt, legal ethics, truth, organ donation, the death penalty, the "kidnapping" of a child by her own parent, alcoholism, teenage suicide, and more. Picoult explores these relevant and intriguing issues with respect, never over-simplifying them or using her novels as a soap box.
Another thing I really like about her novels is that she constantly surprises me. I can't always figure out what will happen, and she doesn't take the easy way out. Her endings are unpredictable, no deux ex machina or pat solutions.
Postmodernism is not my field (wanna weigh in here, Ian?), but, in a way, it seems like she's using postmodern techniques, but not to the extreme of Pynchon or the other famous postmodernists (this is not a criticism, just a comparison of styles). In each of these novels there is a search for "truth," yet she reveals the story through multiple perspectives and shifts in time (but it still feels linear because the reader is never confused about where a scene fits in the story) without ever revealing the one "truth" a reader of traditional novels looks for. The narrative feels "finished," yet there is rarely complete closure. She explores big questions without giving definitive answers, yet it is an honest exploration. I never feel that she's toying with the reader.
If you haven't read her yet, you should.